HomeNewsCaring for mental health – a guide for UK small business owners on World Mental Health Day 2023

Caring for mental health – a guide for UK small business owners on World Mental Health Day 2023

Tuesday 10th October is World Mental Health Day. It’s celebrated every year and recognised by the World Health Organisation. The idea is to raise awareness and encourage open conversations about mental health.

The initiative came from the World Federation for Mental Health. Founded in 1948, they first celebrated World Mental Health Day over 30 years ago. Each year has a different theme, and this year’s is that ‘Mental health is a universal human right’.

In June 2023, the mental health charity Mind partnered with the business insurance broker, Simply Business, to publish research findings about the mental health of business owners. The full report is available on Mind’s Mental Health at Work programme website.

It identifies some key challenges relating to business ownership and mental wellbeing. We’re covering some of these in this blog post:

  • The mental health challenges faced by small business owners
  • The importance of self-care for mental health and wellbeing
  • Mental health in the workplace
  • Mental health at The Business Village

The mental health challenges faced by small business owners

Anyone running a business knows that it can be stressful at times. In any one day, you can face a roller coaster of excitement and challenges. Wearing every hat and juggling multiple responsibilities can lead to burnout, anxiety, and depression.

The Simply Business survey found that over half of business owners had experienced poor mental health in the previous year. Contributing factors included stress, anxiety, and financial worries.

Many reported struggling with sleep, often surviving on less than 5 hours sleep per night. And nearly three quarters took fewer than 20 days of annual leave per year. Anxiety, depression, and loneliness were all reported as major issues.

Sadly, less than a third of those surveyed felt their sector encouraged openness and discussion about mental health. Almost three quarters were unwilling to disclose poor mental health to their clients. But a fifth reported that their standard of work had declined due to poor mental health.

In comparison, two thirds of employees felt their organisation openly encouraged discussion about mental health.

Covering up mental health issues increases stress and it means having less opportunity to access support.

Another survey, the Leapers Annual Report, covers the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed in 2022. It reports that the majority of self-employed experience positive mental health and optimism. And 61% of those new to self-employment say their mental health had improved during the year.

But still, over half of those surveyed did not feel they had adequate support for their mental health. Many didn’t know where to look. And just over 41% were unable to work at some point in 2022 due to stress, anxiety, or poor mental health.

It’s clear from these surveys that support systems are vital for the self-employed.

The importance of self-care for mental health and wellbeing

Many people begin working for themselves to improve their work-life balance. And it’s true that owning your own business can have a huge positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

When you’re the one in charge, it’s important to take care of your own mental health. Self-care may be difficult to prioritise. But it’s key to ensuring you stay in a good place to deal with the challenges which come with business ownership.

Here are five ideas to help reduce your stress levels and support your mental health:

1.  Connect with others in a similar position

Running a business has very different challenges and pressures to being in employment. It can mean working longer hours, irregular income, and isolation. This is especially true if you’re a solo entrepreneur. Other business owners understand the unique challenges. Connecting with them can mean emotional support through the tough times.

2.  Set clear boundaries between work and play

The rise of smartphones means we now walk around with minicomputers in our pockets. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to answer that email on a Sunday morning. Or respond to social media comments before going to bed. But it means we never have time to rest and switch off. Set boundaries with clients and for your personal time – and switch off your phone.

3.  Make time to do the things you enjoy

Exercise and hobbies give balance to our lives. Doing more of the things we enjoy will help reduce stress. And, regular exercise can help with sleep, energy, physical health, memory, mood, and more. As we move into the darker months, it’s important to get outdoors during daylight. A quick walk at lunchtime can give your brain a reset ready for the afternoon.

4.  Look after the finances

Working for yourself can mean lean periods with less work and income. So, it’s important to put money aside in savings to cover you financially during those times. Income protection insurance may be worth investigating to cover you for periods of long-term sickness when you’re unable to work.

5.  Know your triggers and seek support

Everyone experiences stress in different ways. What may be ok for one person could be overwhelming for another. By understanding your own stress triggers, you can recognise when it’s time to take action. Signs of stress include feeling agitated, moody, and out of control, or having difficulty relaxing. Talking to friends, family, or other business owners can help. We’ve also listed helpful resources below, including apps to help with relaxation.

The more you look after your mental health, the better equipped you’ll be to handle stress. Mental wellbeing is good for business. It can enhance decision-making, reduce stress, boost creativity, and increase productivity.

Mental health in the workplace

Anyone employing staff will also need to look after the mental health and wellbeing of others.

Our blog post about mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is packed full of ideas. It also has some helpful resources listed at the end.

Taking the time to talk to employees and listen to their concerns is vital. Simply asking how someone is can make a huge difference.

Sheffield based Mike Lawrence is a health and wellbeing consultant. His services include workplace wellbeing consultancy. Part of this means integrating mental health into an organisation’s core values.

He also runs training for employees to become mental health first aid MHFAiders. This gives them the skills to support other colleagues experiencing mental health issues. It also enables them to support themselves and their loved ones too.

Mental health at The Business Village

We take the mental health and wellbeing seriously. It’s one of the reasons why we love creating opportunities for connectivity.

Many of our tenants are solo business owners working alone in their office. So, we believe it’s important to provide a range of events which bring people together. That way, we can help reduce loneliness and isolation.

But it’s not only about mental wellbeing. Connecting with other tenants also enhances the possibility of collaborative partnerships.

Some of our upcoming events include:

  • Coffee and Collaboration with Kevin
  • The Creative Collective
  • Tenant meetups
  • Wellbeing walks
  • Our podcast, The Business Village People

More details will be coming out via our tenant newsletter, and we encourage you to come along and give them a go.

We’d like to do more to bring our tenants together, so please get in touch if you have a great idea to share.


World Mental Health Day is a great reminder about the importance of mental health. And about having open conversations with each other to reduce any stigma.

It’s clear that business owners feel a lack of mental health support. They face unique challenges, so creating their own peer network can be helpful.

There are also essential steps we can all take to maintain our mental wellbeing. This includes prioritising self-care, setting boundaries, and recognising when to seek support.

“If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.” Joyce Sunada, Wellness speaker, coach, and facilitator

Please get in touch with Kevin Steel, Business Development Manager to discuss any ideas arising from this blog post:

Email: ksteel@BarnsleyBIC.co.uk

Phone: 01226 249 590

Further reading:

The Federation of Small Businesses: https://www.fsb.org.uk/resources-page/how-to-look-after-your-mental-wellbeing-as-a-business-owner.html

The mental health of small business owners and the self-employed – research summary from June 2023: https://cdn.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/04140936/The-mental-health-of-small-business-owners-and-the-self-employed.pdf

Mental health support for the self-employed and small business owners: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/support-for-small-businesses-in-partnership-with-simply-business/

Mental Health Organisations:

Mind: https://www.mind.org.uk/

Mental Health Foundation: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

CALM: https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Samaritans: https://www.samaritans.org/

Anxiety UK: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

Helpful Apps:

Headspace (meditation, stress, and sleep): https://www.headspace.com/

Balance (meditation, stress, and sleep): https://balanceapp.com/

Calm (meditation, stress, and sleep): https://www.calm.com/

My Possible Self (interactive tools based on CBT and NHS approved): https://www.mypossibleself.com/

Worry Tree (recording worries and using CBT techniques): https://www.worry-tree.com/

Previous Business Village blog posts about mental health:

https://www.business-village.co.uk/2022/04/01/how-to-recognise-and-manage-stress-in-the-workplace/ (April 2022) Included some local resources

https://www.business-village.co.uk/2021/10/08/mental-health-and-well-being-in-the-workplace/ (October 2021)